Legal heavyweight warns against green subsidies in net zero battle with US
Rather than subsidies, Wayne Beck argues UK companies need to put in place net zero restructuring to free up cash flow
The European Commission announced at the end of March that subsidies are being offered to EU member states to match ones being offered by US to keep EU companies in vital sectors from moving operations elsewhere.
These will target several green industries under this plan such as production of solar panels, wind turbines and batteries.
Discussing the new policy with Net Zero Investor, Wayne Beck, formerly Sidley Austin and a leading London partner at Faegre Drinker, stresses that there is now more than ever a requirement for UK companies to put in place restructuring plans to free up cash flow and prevent potential insolvencies within the key sectors.
He explained this will impact the already struggling UK automotive sector and the UK’s transition to EVs, and may deter investors looking to pump cash into the sector.
Beck said: “Much has been made of recent reports about US tax breaks and European state aid as forms of support for the seemingly unstoppable transition to electric vehicles, and whether the UK government should be providing its own support, with key decisions around major investments in infrastructure seemingly becoming conditional on huge government incentives."
He added, however, that this is just one of the challenges facing the traditional automotive manufacturers and suppliers, in what is set to be a period of "seismic change with internal combustion engine vehicles at risk of being regulated out of existence whilst the future path to electric, which, given the improvements in the hydrogen and even synthetic fuel sectors, may not even be the final answer."
"It remains fraught with questions around charging networks and, in particular, potential environmental concerns relating to manufacture and re-use/disposal of batteries to come."
Beck noted that "it seems inevitable therefore that the sector will see significant and potentially large-scale restructurings and possibly consolidation over the coming years."
"The companies which will fair best are those which have the foresight to work alongside all stakeholders (including financial creditors) to secure the time, liquidity and infrastructure required to stay relevant and maintain their market share, so that they are positioned as best they can for a future which remains difficult to predict," he concluded.